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Google Art Project Brings Galleries To Your PC 103

Zothecula writes "Google has announced a collaboration with 17 of the world's most acclaimed art museums that lets people view over 1,000 high res-artwork images and 17 gigapixel images while taking a virtual stroll through their galleries using Street View technology. While nothing can beat seeing a work of art in person, the Google Art Project could be the next best thing for those without the time and money to pop on a plane and trade elbows with crowds of tourists looking to catch a glimpse of what some of the best museums have on offer."
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Google Art Project Brings Galleries To Your PC

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I swear, many years ago, Bill Gates and his "Corbis" company went around buying ALL the digital reproduction rights to millions of artworks in museums all over the globe. Perpetual, never-ending rights, in exchange for a one-time payment. So what happened to that?

    • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @02:58PM (#35082108)

      Don't worry, the Google Art Project will be available on Bing soon.

    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      I believe that was only for previously copyrighted photographs (mostly from news organizations) and stock images.

      It wouldn't cover photographs of museum holdings, as those images, and the right to reproduce them are in the public domain unless the artist still has copyright works. You may not be allowed to photograph works in all museums, (huge piles of money usually gets around this), but any photograph you do take of a long dead artist's work is not copyrighted.

    • This is a way to generate revenue. He gets a bunch of people to view the images online, then sues them for copyright infringement or whatever, based on his 'rights' to the digital image.

  • Time and money? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @02:54PM (#35082064)

    Only rich people can afford to get airplane tickets, book a hotel room for a few days oversea and skip work just to go see some paintings.

    And don't give me crap about where I live. Half of the families in Canada earn less than 15$K per year, and that's with the 1 Canadian dollar = 1.01204 U.S. dollars
    of today.

    • Re:Time and money? (Score:4, Informative)

      by SuperSlug ( 799739 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @03:32PM (#35082546)

      Wrong, the median family income is closer to 65K a year in Canada. []

      • by Putr ( 1669238 )

        Median != Most people

        You forget your basic statistics. If you have 10*10k/year and 1*100k/year ... the median(18k) is no where what most of the people make.

        • Median != Most people

          You forget your basic statistics. If you have 10*10k/year and 1*100k/year ... the median(18k) is no where what most of the people make.

          I think it is you who forget your basic statistics... median != mean; mean is the average (18k) -- median on 10*10k and 1*100k would be 10k (11 samples, the middle one is 10k). So, the median in your example would be *exactly* what most of the people make.

    • Re:Time and money? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Methuseus ( 468642 ) <> on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @03:41PM (#35082672)

      I'm in the US, my wife and I make under $50k combined per year, yet we found the time and money to go to Germany for 2 weeks and visit various art museums there. Yes, it's not the Louvre, but that would be about the same expense. Get rid of your cable TV, don't buy so much porn and video games, and don't eat out every night. There, you have an extra $300-500 a month to plan a trip for about $3000. No big deal.

      • It's not always about how much you have. It's also about how you use what you've got.
      • ...don't buy so much porn...

        I know what those words mean, but that phrase makes no sense.

      • Did you take your four kids, or pay for babysitting while you were gone?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Whoa...wait wait wait... people still pay for porn?

      • don't buy so much porn

        Who buys porn nowadays? Seriously, of all the money-saving ideas you could come up with, this is about the least relevant or useful.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @02:55PM (#35082078)
    Gee, what are the chances that the servers serving up these 17 GPixel images are already slashdotted?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Next to none? It's Google.

  • I Disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @02:58PM (#35082096) Homepage Journal

    While nothing can beat seeing a work of art in person....

    I disagree wholeheartedly here. If Google, or someone else, can, one day, download the world's most famous art projects directly into my visual, auditory, olfactory, and other sensory lobes in my brain, that would beat the hell out of traveling through the meatspace to see a piece of art in person. I know we're not there yet, but we're chugging forward baby steps at a time. So yeah, nostalgia and all that says that a visit to The Louvre is a life-changing experience, blah blah blah.

    But frankly, I don't have the time or patience to deal with the hordes of gawking art patrons at a museum. So yeah, Google, keep up the work (along with everyone else bringing information to the masses). One day, when I can press a button on my phone, and have my brain light up like it just saw Mona Lisa in person, then I certainly will proclaim that such an experience beats the hell out of actually seeing that painting in person.

    • Don't give me that BS! You know full well that when they have the technology to deliver sensory input directly to your brain, you'll be using it not for art, but for porn!
      • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @03:08PM (#35082260) Homepage Journal
        Porn, art, the only difference is what part of your body you're masturbating over it.
        • +5 Insightful!

        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @03:24PM (#35082452) Journal

          Sometimes not even that. I wish I could say that all those sculptures and paintings of naked women were purely for aesthetic appreciation of the human body, but that really wasn't the case. Outside of church frescoes, most paintings fall into one of the categories of immortalizing oneself (portraits) or essentially softcore porn. All that was different is essentially the social contract that it's ok to look at naked women if you pretend it's a representation of Venus [] ;)

          The age of masturbating another part of your body, as you aptly put it, only came much later and is largely a recent phenomenon.

          Kinda puts it in perspective, I think. I wouldn't be surprised if, assuming one could get cryogenically frozen until the year 3000 like in Futurama, in a future museum one would hear the guide going, "And to the left we have Larry Flint's unnamed recently-discovered masterpiece, which we tentatively call 'Venus with still life up the ass'" ;)

          • The age of masturbating another part of your body, as you aptly put it, only came much later and is largely a recent phenomenon.

            A lot of smaller nude paintings hung in the private chambers of the wealthy for private "appreciation" which I sincerely doubt was entirely cerebral. This includes stuff like a naked Mona Lisa (the Monna Vanna) which just goes to show you how far back Rule 34 goes.

            • Yep. That was kinda what I was trying to say. The age of mental masturbation (i.e., snobbery) is what I was saying came later. The age of just masturbation was, of course, with us since the first hominid evolved opposable thumbs ;)

      • by cptdondo ( 59460 )

        Once again, you've beat by Arthur C Clarke: []

    • by nomel ( 244635 )

      No problem!

      I found some images of the insides of the museum (also from google) that I'm printing on my home printer right now that I plan to paste on my walls. It only took me a few minutes to make a full resolution tile downloader, so all that's left is to get Costco to make me some poster prints and invite some rude strangers into my house!

      Real life experience, here I come! :D

    • Nothing will be able to replace the feeling you get when you're crammed into a huge crowd of smelly tourists standing in front of the Mona Lisa and thinking 'I came all the way out here for this ?!'

    • So your argument is that when technology can perfectly mimic a real life experience, then the real life experience becomes redundant?

      That is begging the question, and is irrelevant when judging the current far-from-perfect representations we are capable of.

  • Museum gift shops (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ksheff ( 2406 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @02:59PM (#35082118) Homepage
    Is Google going to provide links the gift shops at these museums too?
    • by ksheff ( 2406 )
      grrr s/links the/links to the/
    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      I'm pretty sure Google rewarded the Museums with more money than their gift shops take in in 5 years.

    • Do you mean that in the "These shops will lose revenue from lost tourist sales" kind of way or the "Advertising is annoying, why are they linking me to the shop between every image" kind of way?

    • Like always, the exit is through the gift shop.

      • Like always, the exit is through the gift shop.

        And, like always, as an adult you are free to make the choice not to buy anything there.

  • Hope it comes up "for those without the time and money to pop on a plane and trade elbows with crowds of students looking to catch a glimpse of what some of the best schools have on offer"...

  • While I'm sure that Gigapixel images are great for pixel-peeping, they don't seem all that useful given the available real-estate on a standard computer monitor (around 1680 x 1050 these days). I'm not sure what great advantage the extra pixels do over a well-constructed JPEG or TIFF for viewing the artwork as a whole -- as it was intended to be viewed.

    Not to mention that most computers would drag to a halt moving around an image that large.

    • If you're looking at it using the same method as google earth or the other google technologies, then the gigapixels probably won't be loaded at all unless you really want to zoom in, and then only the fraction of the image that you are focused on.
    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      In a word: Zoom.

      You can zoom into detail you wouldn't even be allowed to get close enough to see in the museum.
      Some artists put that level of detail into their works for a purpose, so be careful when throwing around that "as intended to be viewed" stuff.

      Oh, and they will look stunning on that 50 inch on the wall too.

      • Totally. A quick back of the envelope calculation suggests that the resolution and quality of these images is enough to create same size reproductions with the same level of detail visible to the naked eye as in the original (however without the 3d aspects of texture and with a considerably reduced color gamut). All we need now are 100 inch monitors with 360 ppi.
        • by K8Fan ( 37875 )

          Is there a tool that will zoom into the image to a particular level, capture a segment, pan to the adjacent area, capture that, etc, panning and capturing until it has captured a mosaic of the whole very high resolution image and will stitch the image back together?

          Not that I would ever even consider doing anything like that.

          • Not that I know of. Of course anyone on slashdot should be able to whip one up in a couple of minutes... :)

            Doing so might violate Google's terms of service, but there are no copyright issues involved, so the only recall Google would have is to block you from their services. Once you have the image it is yours to do what you please with, though IANAL.

            • by K8Fan ( 37875 )

              Not that I know of. Of course anyone on slashdot should be able to whip one up in a couple of minutes... :)

              Not me, I can't program for shit.

              Doing so might violate Google's terms of service, but there are no copyright issues involved, so the only recall Google would have is to block you from their services. Once you have the image it is yours to do what you please with, though IANAL.

              I'd imagine someone will produce a Firefox plug-in. I'd also imagine the art galleries involved are asserting a copyright on the image - even though the works of art themselves are in the public domain.

          • I can't believe I'm recommending a Microsoft product. At least it's from Microsoft Research, rather than a regular product from the lying bastard sales division.....

            Microsoft Image Composite Editor []

            I've used it for panoramic shots before, and it works great. Not sure if it does vertical, as well as horizontal, but you could always do all the horizontal sections, then use Irfanview's lossless JPG rotation, and stitch all the horizontal strips into a whole.

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @03:04PM (#35082194) Homepage Journal

    I don't really understand art. I would like to. These museums picked these paintings for a reason, and it goes beyond "they look pretty". (Some of 'em don't.)

    I know that art requires context. How do these paintings relate to the culture they were painted in, the other paintings that were made at the same time, the paintings that came before?

    I could, presumably, google them, and that would be a nice neutral answer. This is just the first step, and perhaps there's some API that will allow curators to include the high-res Google images in with whatever technique they use to provide context. Every museum is different, of course, and some will simply want to ignore the distractions while others would like a guided tour.

    But on it's own, the technical feat of producing these images intrigues me as an engineer, but the paintings themselves are just fodder for screen wallpaper. I don't want to be a philistine, but somebody will have to help me out here.

    • Ok, not having looked at the article, I can tell you that a museum curator would pick a piece of art that is either well known, or rare, possibly both. You might have 10 paintings of Haystacks or Waterlillies from Monet, so you'd pick one that is particularly good or shows some technique the artist is well known for. That decision is wholly constrained by which pieces you have. So the best example of Monet's art might not be the one you have, but you show the best example you do have.

      One thing this will not

      • Two things, one a better analogy might have been Frank Lloyd Wright built lots of buildings, some were significant for techniques used, like the Earthquakeproof Imperial Hotel in Japan, floated on a bed of mud with stilts going down to bedrock. Leon Moisseiff designed the Manhattan Bridge and inspired the Golden Gate bridge, both fine examples of the craft but Engineers might pay more attention to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, also a Moisseiff design.

        I took a quick peek at the Met's walkaround from Goolge, the

    • I worked with someone that developed an online museum designed roughly to answer this problem. I'm afraid it was a long time ago and I've forgotten the URL, but it was in Scotland if that helps...

      The basic idea is each exhibit had various 'tell me more' links that took you off in different directions, and the description of each exhibit was dynamically generated based on the other exhibits you had seen so if you start at say the Mona Lisa the description might simply say it was painted by the famous artist

    • The more art education you have, the less commentary you need. The more time you spend actually trying to mix paints and combine them on a canvas, the less art education you need. Commentary is mostly trivia, knowledge of low utility. Knowledge of painting is very practical, but rather narrow in scope.

      It sounds like you need an education. If you were to be unaware of any major sphere of human endeavor, art would seem safest, but ignorance is rarely innocuous. Google is the simplest way to acquire specific k

    • I don't really understand art. I would like to.

      Why would you? If you don't really understand it, it's just not one of your characteristics. You have other strengths.

      When I listen to music, or look at certain art, I sometimes get a bodily response. Hairs stand on the back of my neck, or I get a shiver up and down my spine. Just says I have some sort of sensitivity to this kind of stuff.

      If you don't, then you don't.

      • by jfengel ( 409917 )

        I have the belief, possibly mistaken, that I might enjoy it if I learned about it.

        Even if it is mistaken, it's something other people enjoy, and I'd like to be able to share that with them. The way I do with, say, baseball: I don't particularly love it but I know enough about the game to enjoy going to one with other people. I may never go to an art gallery on my own, but it would be nice to not be bored when I go with others.

        If nothing else, just chalk it up to insatiable curiosity. I don't think of any

        • OK I see where you're coming from. I'm a bit of a geek so I like the useless bits of knowledge that come with art. When I go to some piece of classical music, I look it up on Wikipedia beforehand and often there's an interesting story behind it. So-and-so wrote this piece because it's thought he was in love with his best friend's wife. It makes the stuff more interesting (or palatable :-)). I also keep the brochures so I know afterwards what I like and don't like. When it comes to art, I don't like impressi []

          • by jfengel ( 409917 )

            I'd love to see Google link these high-res images to their Wikipedia pages. Or having the Wiki pages link to the high-res images. It would be kind of like a user-curated museum.

            For that matter, if Wikipedia were the wrong place for it, a separate ArtWiki would be handy, especially if you could encourage art curators to help populate it. There might be an opportunity for special tools: "See where the layers of paint here indicate that a hand position was changed?" or "Here's a closeup of sfumato" or "Look

  • It's projects like this that remind me of the power of technology. It's easy to get caught up in using and following technology that's used for efficiency and productivity in the workplace. Losing sight of the human connection is common, art forgotten. Project's like Google's Art endeavor breathe life into tech world. Three Cheers for Google!
  • Very cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lev13than ( 581686 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @03:07PM (#35082250) Homepage

    This is very cool tech. I went to the Uffizi and zoomed in on Venus' boob until it filled the screen. Then I noticed all the brush work on the (strategically placed) hand and saw how Botticelli had subtly shifted the placement of the fingers as he painted. Would be very cool if they could add an X-Ray overlay.

    Thanks a lot Google - I went looking for 15th-Century nudie picks but instead I ended up learning something.

  • by spiedrazer ( 555388 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @03:15PM (#35082362) Homepage
    Having seen several works by the major impressionists in person, I can say that no 2D rendering of a truly great painting can do it justice, no matter how high the resolution. Looking at a Van Gogh, for example, the paint depth in the brush strokes can be up to a centimeter thick, and this depth interactes with the light in person in a way that you can't capture in a 2D image. Which is not to say the whole thing isn't still really cool.
    • That's OK - you're not supposed to experience this on the same level as The Real People. This is just sort of a substitute experience for the little people like yourself. Instead of criticizing for inadequacy, you should be thanking us for providing even a substitute.
      • Please note that I'm not criticizing for inadequacy... I'm just informing the many readers who will check it out that, no matter how high the resolution, it still does not approach the visual impact these works can have in person. I wouldn't want people to think that they no longer need a museum trip because they have seen these works on Google!

        BTW, I'm not an art snob, just a guy who happened into the Boston Museum of Fine Arts before a RedSox game one Sunday and found myself in front of some truly breat

      • Which part of

        Which is not to say the whole thing isn't still really cool.

        don't you understand?

    • by McNihil ( 612243 )

      True about the light interaction and all but sometimes the gallery lights are not entirely perfect either because the paintings are cramped up and such. I hope that in the future the google art project will have 3D capabilities as we currently have with some movies. The effect on paintings would be much more inline with how it really is than the movies too. Another benefit would be that one could have dynamic lighting and have preferred viewing distance and light in perfect harmony.

      Hats off to google tryin

      • That would be really cool. There is still the issue of color gamut, but hopefully there will be displays available one day with much wider gamuts.
    • by Twinbee ( 767046 )
      One could emulate that depth by using a bump-map on a 3D-erized version of the 2D picture. Maybe even copy bump for bump from the original picture, or just create a generic one if there isn't variation in the bumps on the original picture.
      • by flewp ( 458359 )

        or just create a generic one if there isn't variation in the bumps on the original picture.

        The problem with a generic bump map is that it's not going to line up with the brush strokes of the actual painting. It's not like we're only talking about the surface of canvas here, which is going to have a rather uniform and consistent texture throughout a particular painting and even throughout different paintings. Each painting is going to have a totally unique "bump map" based on the brush work of the artist. Using a generic bump map is going to completely throw everything off.

  • by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @03:33PM (#35082566)
    Funny enough I submitted this very idea to google about a year ago. I submitted it as a project improvement since its damn near impossible to find an idea submission avenue. I got the idea after using Google street view to take a virtual tour of the Pompeii ruins (I highly recommend checking them out, super cool). So, I sent in a suggestion that they could do something similar with museums around the world, thus allowing people to visit exhibits they may never get to see face to face. I wonder if my submission helped spur on the idea? I never got any kind of response. I'm not really worried about money, I'd just like to know if my suggestion actually gained traction, or if there were a ton of other submissions or what. I can't wait to see how far they take it. I'd love to see it extended to other places. Super cool :)
  • This is just so cool, I'm not a fan analyzing art but, I like visiting museums because of the amount of detail I can see in an artwork. Well I just zoomed in and saw some extremely fine paint strokes in one of the museums. This gets my utterly worthless approval.
  • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @04:04PM (#35082972)

    ...that lets people view over 1,000 high res artwork images and 17 gigapixel images while taking a virtual stroll through their galleries using Street View technology.

    Doesn't it seem a bit irresponsible on the part of the museums to let those VW Bugs drive around their hallways?

  • when a decent slideshow would do. I could care less what the gallery looks like but the Streetview interface is lousy for this purpose.
    • A million times this, the interface bites. I can't even find a search field which is pretty ironic. Why repreduce the limitations of meatspace ? A download link for the gigapixel images would be nice too.

    • I agree, Streetview is wrong for this. The most annoying thing is that the camera seems to be about 10 feet off the floor, almost at ceiling level (at least for the Van Gogh museum). I keep wanting to slide the view point down a few feet to get a view level with the paintings, but instead I always wind up looking down at it from the ceiling. (BTW, this a beef that lots of people have with Streetview in the city streets: the camera is much higher than a normal person's height, so viewers can get a peek ov

  • I would love a MythTV plugin for this... I've been slowly amassing hi-res images to put on our livingroom TV as a slow slideshow for when we have people over... I'd been looking for a trove of good resolution fine 'art' ...
  • should be called Googleheim.
  • How about Norton Simon [], Philadelphia [], etc.?

    I wonder if these virtual museums will make more people go to the museums.

  • When I'm at a museum, I can't help wonder why is this not a web site??

    I mean, all an art museum is is a way to display pictures to the public, but in a phenomenally expensive and impractical way, compared to HTML.

    I realize this field is slow to change and that display quality can still improve slightly, but in the medium term this is inevitable.

    At least to the extent the attraction of museums is to display these pictures. When it comes to letting visitors be near the objects that celebrity artists have touc

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